WILKES-BARRE – In a county as strapped cash as Luzerne, any little bit helps.
So when county Manager Robert Lawton and Controller Walter Griffith discovered the state treasury had more than $24,000 of unclaimed money owed to the county, they were proud of their find.
And state Treasurer Rob McCord was impressed with their fiscal due diligence, so much so he came to the county courthouse on Friday to personally deliver a $24,572.63 check and to spread the message that there's plenty more where that came from if only people would take a few minutes to look.
"I applaud the initiative of leaders here who stepped forward to investigate and pursue this claim. We hope the news of this reunification reminds other local governments to take a moment and see whether they or the agencies and departments under their jurisdictions are owed unclaimed property too," McCord said.
More than $1.9 billion in unclaimed property is being held by the state treasury. Approximately $18 million of the total belongs to people and entities in the county, he added.
When Lawton came aboard earlier this year, he wondered if the county had any money to which it was entitled. He asked Griffith, who didn't believe so but his staff initiated a search April 12 and found 109 credits, refunds and payments due to the county, ranging from $2 to $12,130.47. It added up to $24,572.63 that should have been in the county's coffers.
"That's a lot of money here in Luzerne County," Lawton noted.
Some of the checks ended up in the state treasury because of incorrect or incomplete addresses, Treasury spokesman Michael Smith said. Most of the uncashed checks dated back to 2003, 2004 and 2005 and were owed to multiple offices. The $12,130 check had been issued to the county commissioners from the state budget office in August 2004.
Records show the check was sent to the county recreational complex in Forty Fort, and it's unclear why it never made it to the commissioners' office at the courthouse in Wilkes-Barre.
The oldest check, from 1989 for $41, was owed to the county domestic relations office from Northampton County.
Smith said the Treasurer's Office has long been alerting the public about the unclaimed property. Since McCord took over in 2009, he said there has been a stronger push was made to spread the word.
He said in recent years, likely because of the poor economy, "we've seen an uptick" in claims.
Lawton said the county will "conduct an annual search for such funds" in the future, but he hopes "that new financial software and systems will keep the county from ever again being in this position."
To search to see if you're owed money visit www.PAtreasury.gov.